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Suicide Prevention Fundraiser Illuminates a Pernicious Problem

May 9, 2013 – The Out of Darkness suicide fundraiser walk helped bring people together for a powerful message about mental illness and depression. It was about fear being transformed into hope and pain into healing for the loved ones of suicide victims.

Mike Gonzales was the master of ceremonies and worked in partnership with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to being together what he called “a huge success” on the Shasta campus. Its’ first suicide prevention fundraiser attracted around 120 people and raised $1,970 for suicide outreach advocacy programs.

Gonzalez, whose daughter took her own life at age 20, has helped organize walks like ours in Chico, and hopes to bring another event, the premier of a bipolar disorder awareness film to nearby Red bluff soon. Many local businesses set up booths in the quad to sponsor the cause while Power 94 broadcast live.

“Two times as many people commit suicide in rural counties compared to urban ones,” Gonzales said to the crowd. And each of these deaths, he continued, affects 7-10 people directly connected to the victim – their family and friends,” and the family and friends of many victims were there.

Walkers could pick up free bread necklaces of different colors, each one representing how you had been affected by suicide. A purple necklace meant you had a friend who took his/her life. A white one meant your son or daughter was the victim. I talked to a woman who was wearing a white necklace and a t-shirt that showed Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album. She had bought her son tickets to see them before he took his life. He never got the gift.

Gonzales brought a gift of his own. “The reason why we’re all here is to remove the stigma,” associated with talking about suicide. A gift he too was too late, he says, to give his daughter. He indicated that part of the solution begins with conversing about suicidal thoughts, talking it out with a friend, letting the people you love know you are struggling.

Having the ability to talk freely about the problems one faces is exactly what guest speaker Lynn Fritz strived to accomplish at this fundraiser. Lynn, a psychotherapist, shared her story about how her journey to find a way to “live life passionately” after her own experience attempting suicide. She shared that mission with all participants that day – a mission to illuminate a path out of depression, a quest to reconnect with family and friends and a goal to live a life that was “finally free.”

By Adam Carlson

Photo by Patrick Carr

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